We recently posted an article on this very blog expressing our excitement over outreach; Why Outreach Is The Best Way To Promote Your Business. We were so excited, in fact, that we managed to leave out a chunk of the story: how to send an outreach message.
So we used the knowledge we had acquired while writing and editing said article and found ourselves in touch with David Schneider of NinjaOutreach. This article is his expertly advised follow up:
The [very recent] article, Why Outreach Is The Best Way To Promote Your Business covered just about everything that pertains to effective outreach, except for one minor detail…
How to Write the Perfect Outreach Message.
Because let’s face it, if you don’t nail the pitch, then all of the other work essentially counts for nothing.
Luckily, writing a great outreach message is not actually that difficult.
Perhaps even more lucky – most people are doing it wrong.
Seriously, here’s just one outreach message I received today:
Now, hopefully you can tell right away why this is awful. If not, after reading this article, go back and take a look at this and you’ll see all the gaps this outreach script has (by the way, this ended up in my spam folder, as it should).
So, what does this mean?
This means there is an opportunity to stand out, which won’t require much effort (which are, in my opinion, the best kinds of opportunities).
The 4 Elements Of A Perfect Outreach Message
It’s impossible to provide an outreach message for every occasion, at best we can simply give a guideline for what each message should contain.
I like to break it down into the following checklist items.
- A personal introduction
- An honest, transparent request
- A statement of credibility
- Value. Value.
Let’s look at each case individually…
1. A Personal Introduction
Outreach should be personal. It’s just that simple. It’s a shame how many people are always looking to take shortcuts (we get asked all the time if we have a bulk email sender in our tool).
Now, that does not mean that you need to know everyone you outreach to, although it does help to build relationships with influencers prior to reaching out.
On the contrary, I reach out to people I don’t know all the time – daily in fact. But I always make it personal.
What are ways to personalize an outreach message?
- Using their name i.e “Hey Dave”
- Referencing some of their work, such as a recent article they wrote.
- Identifying the relationship you have. That might be a mutual acquaintance or just something you have in common.
Most of this is accomplished simply through some degree of online research. After all, if you’re emailing them, you likely got their email address from somewhere, either through a friend or off a website, and that means there is more information available to personalize. So, look for it, and include it.
Here’s an outreach email I sent to Krystian when I was soliciting feedback on an idea I had for my blogger outreach tool, NinjaOutreach.
Notice how I…
- Used his name in the subject (not a hard rule, but can be effective)
- Used his name again at the top of the message body (this is a must)
- Identified from where I got his information (I saw a testimonial by him).
Basically, this is the grounds through which I found him and it’s proof that we didn’t just mine his email randomly along with a thousand other people. It shows him that we actually care about his opinion (which we do), and makes him more likely to respond (which he did).
2. An Honest, Transparent Request
Look, if you’re emailing someone, chances are you want something. It’s not worth hiding – in fact, it’s insulting to do so. So just come right out and say it.
What are you looking for? Do you want to guest post on their website? Would you like them to review your product? Are you interested in coming on-board as an affiliate?
Just say it upfront and make sure it’s clear.
Here’s a guest post request I sent to Sean Ogle:
Notice the second line, “If you have a few moments, I’d love to pitch you a guest post”.
This explains exactly what this email is about. The rest of the email is telling him why he should accept a guest post from me (which he did).
By the way, I purposely spaced it onto its own separate line for emphasis.
3. A Statement Of Credibility
People are suspicious by nature. It’s not surprising, given all the scams and spam out there. As a result, people want to see credibility related to what you’re asking for.
That’s an important distinction, because the fact that I belong to a certain organization or have certain credentials may not mean anything if I’m asking for something completely unrelated.
For example, if you’re looking to write a guest post, show them where else you’ve guest posted. Naturally, focusing on high level publications and choosing your quality articles makes even more sense.
Here’s an email I’ve sent in the past to get featured on podcasts:
I’m not going to dive into all of the aspects of this pitch – I just want to focus on the credibility part. In this case, it was providing a few references at the end.
I know it doesn’t seem like much, and frankly it isn’t much, but being able to point to previous podcasts I’ve been featured on is huge to get accepted. It’s social proof that basically tells someone, as quickly as possible, that you’ve been vetted by someone trustworthy. This is important, because their reputation is at stake.
4. Value. Value. Value.
You know the old saying:
There are three things to remember when valuing a property; Location, Location, LOCATION!
I feel the same way about pitches and value.
This is the part you have to get right, and honestly even if you get the other parts wrong, if you can explain the value, you still have a good shot.
People are looking for VALUE…
- Value for them.
- Value for their clients/customers.
- Value for their audience.
Prove what’s in it for them, and they’ll jump on-board.
Here’s a pitch that I received today that I initially rejected:
Now, this pitch is totally fine. It has all the elements we discussed above.
The problem was, I just didn’t see the value in what he was offering. I mean, I understood it, but I just didn’t value it that highly.
Here was my reply:
You can see I highlighted two reasons as to why I didn’t see the value in what he was offering.
Then he countered…
When he changed his approach to how he could get me more customers for NinjaOutreach, as opposed to exposure for SelfMadeBusinessman, I agreed.
Effectively, nothing fundamental had changed, nothing at all. He was still the same guy, offering the same thing at the same moment in time – but the value proposition was different, and that changed my mind.
Had he known that I was the CEO of NinjaOutreach and that I valued customer growth over exposure for my personal blog, he could have led with that and I would have agreed right off the bat.
Similarly, if we hadn’t had this back and forth, he would have missed the opportunity altogether. Yes, outreach is that finicky.
Here are some more ideas for value:
Offer Something of Value to Them and Their Audience.
- Giving them a discount when the product is launched
- Offering them and their audience free copies
- Offering to prioritize any advice/feedback they give
Conclusion And Other Tips
As I said before, there is no one size fits all outreach template. If you really want to get serious about outreach scripts, then you have to split-test them. You can do that with a tool, or just by keeping track of your sent messages and the replies.
Now, go back and take a look at that first outreach script I received from Donna – do you see why it’s lacking?
How could she improve her outreach?